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Turkish FM Says Government Has More Information About Khashoggi Killing

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a meeting in Istanbul, Oct. 29, 2018.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday his government has more information about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and that it will likely make the evidence public after investigations of his death have been completed.

Speaking during a trip to Japan, Cavusoglu told reporters that Turkey said Saudi Arabia and other countries interested in the information have been given the opportunity to see it.

Khashoggi died after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

Initially, Saudi Arabia said Khashoggi walked out of the consulate and that his whereabouts were unknown, then that he died in a fist fight and still later that he had died in a chokehold. The kingdom's public prosecutor has since called the killing premeditated, but has not said who planned or approved it.

Cavusoglu said Tuesday that after multiple conversations with Saudi King Salman, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is convinced the king was not involved.

But Cavusoglu said it is clear that a 15-man team alleged to have traveled to Turkey to act as a hit squad would not have taken such action on their own, and that investigators need to find who would have given that order.

Turkey said last week that Khashoggi, a U.S.-based journalist who had written columns for The Washington Post that were critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was strangled as soon as he entered the consulate, his body dismembered and then destroyed, possibly dissolved in acid.

No trace of Khashoggi's remains has turned up, even as the 59-year-old journalist's sons appealed on the U.S. television news network CNN on Sunday for the Saudis to return his body so he can be buried in the major Islamic pilgrimage city of Medina with the rest of his family.

Candles, lit by activists, protesting the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, are placed outside Saudi Arabia's consulate, in Istanbul, during a candlelight vigil, Oct. 25, 2018.
Candles, lit by activists, protesting the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, are placed outside Saudi Arabia's consulate, in Istanbul, during a candlelight vigil, Oct. 25, 2018.

A Turkish official, speaking anonymously, confirmed a Monday report in Sabah, a newspaper close to Turkey's government, that chemicals expert Ahmad Abdulaziz al-Janobi and toxicology expert Khaled Yahya al-Zahrani were part of a team sent from Saudi Arabia, supposedly to investigate Khashoggi's October 2 killing.

The Sabah report said the two experts visited the consulate every day from their arrival on October 11 until October 17, with Saudi authorities allowing Turkish investigators to search the consulate on October 15.

"We believe that the two individuals came to Turkey for the sole purpose of covering up evidence of Jamal Khashoggi's murder before the Turkish police were allowed to search the premises," the Turkish official said.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia told a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva that it would prosecute those responsible for Khashoggi's death, but continued to deflect reporters' questions about Riyadh's ongoing investigation.

Bandar Al Aiban, the head of Riyadh's delegation, told the U.N. hearing that King Salman had instructed the Saudi public prosecutor to "proceed with the investigation into this case according to the applicable laws," and "bringing all the perpetrators to justice." Saudi Arabia has detained 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi's death, but Aiban gave no details on their status or whereabouts.

"The case is still under investigation, as you know ... I think my statement was very clear," Aiban said.

More than 40 nations, including the United States, called for a thorough investigation of Khashoggi's death and human rights reforms in Saudi Arabia. Numerous Western nations called for the abolition of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, an end to the system of male guardianship over women and a loosening of the definition of "terrorism" in the kingdom so that peaceful critics are not prosecuted. The Saudis have until Friday to report back on whether they will accept any of the recommendations.

The United States pulled out of the 47-member Human Rights Council in June, accusing it of anti-Israel bias.

But U.S. Charge d'Affaires Mark Cassayre appeared at the meeting in an observer status, saying that a "thorough, conclusive and transparent investigation (of Khashoggi's death) carried out in accordance with due process with results made public is essential."